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What to Know About Claiming Races

Advice from a winning owner and trainer in Quarter Horse racing for claiming a racehorse.
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There are a number of channels for entering into racehorse ownership: private sales, public auctions, syndicates and even claiming races. Claiming is the act of buying a horse out of a race for a pre-designated price. To claim a horse is fraught with risk because there is no opportunity to thoroughly examine the horse before he enters the starting gate. But there are ways to minimize your claiming risk.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing’ where racehorses are concerned, but claimers are the closest thing,” says veteran owner and trainer Roe Gordon, who claims horses in the name of his Racehorse Inc. and has saddled hundreds of winners in his career. “Even though you will get unlucky and get a lemon sometimes, to me, claiming is the safest way to get a racehorse.”

Here are five things to know about claiming races: 

  1. The claiming game is a secretive one. Someone who is interested in claiming a horse is not likely to make that fact known before a race. 
  2. Video footage can be a helpful tool. “A chart tells you something, but the video tells you a lot more. If I were to give anyone advice on claiming, I would tell them to watch the online videos. It makes a big difference,” says one successful claiming owner. 
  3. Accurate completion of the claim slip is vitally important. The horse’s name, the date and claiming price must be correct, it must be signed, and the claiming money must be on account at the track. Any mistake or omission is grounds for a voided claim.
  4. The horse’s trainer is an important consideration. “Some (trainers) focus on 2-year-olds and looking at the futurity and stakes races. But there are others who are better with claimers,” says Gordon. 
  5. A good horse with a small problem could still be a big win. Gordon says he will sometimes claim a horse even if he knows it has a physical problem. “You might know a horse has chips in his knees, and will take $2,000 for knee surgery and you’ll have to wait on him for three or four months,” he says. “But if he didn’t have the chip, he might be a $20,000 horse.”